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The Third Man

The Third Man(1949)

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teaser The Third Man (1949)

SYNOPSIS

An American writer of pulp westerns, Holly Martins, arrives by train in the war-torn, divided city of Vienna. He has been promised a job there by his boyhood friend, Harry Lime. Martins arrives just in time to attend his friend's funeral; he is informed that Lime has just been killed in a traffic accident. Martins seems determined to investigate Lime's death, in spite of being told repeatedly that he should leave the country and go home - both by Major Calloway, the British officer who was pursuing Lime for black marketeering, and by Lime's former lover Anna, with whom Martins is falling in love. Eventually, Martins learns much more about Lime than he ever wanted to know while grappling with questions of morality far more complex than those introduced in his western novels.

Producer/Director: Carol Reed
Executive Producers: Alexander Korda, David O. Selznick
Associate Producer: Hugh Perceval
Screenplay:Graham Greene
Cinematography: Robert Krasker
Film Editor: Oswald Hafenrichter
Assistant Director: Guy Hamilton
Music: Anton Karas
Makeup: George Frost
Sound Editor: Jack Drake
Set Designers: Joseph Bato, John Hawkesworth, Vincent Korda
Principal Cast: Joseph Cotten (Holly Martins), Alida Valli (Anna Schmidt), Orson Welles (Harry Lime), Trevor Howard (Major Calloway), Bernard Lee (Sgt. Paine), Paul Hoerbiger (Porter), Ernst Deutsch (`Baron' Kurtz), Siegfried Breuer (Popescu), Erich Ponto (Dr. Winkel), Wilfrid Hyde-White (Crabbin), Hedwig Bleibtreu (landlady)
B&W-104m.

Why THE THIRD MAN is Essential

Film Noir is typically thought of as a purely American style or genre, but in 1949 two Englishmen - novelist Graham Greene and director Carol Reed collaborated to flesh out an idea by producer Alexander Korda for a film set in the divided war-torn city of Vienna. The resulting movie, The Third Man, was an overnight worldwide hit and is often listed as the greatest British film of all time. An American influence came from producer David O. Selznick and the stars Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles, but there is no mistaking the European flavor of the movie. Shot largely on location, it captures the darkness and decay of the formerly grand city that is now littered with rubble, just as it captures the corruption and decadence in the soul of people warped by World War.

The Third Man works on many more levels than merely the "entertainment" that Greene termed it to be. It wonderfully captures a time and a place unique in history; it is an early example of a cold-war intrigue that, while not depicting a single spy, can be seen as a prototype for spy thrillers to come. It also works as a study of post-WWII morality with Harry Lime viewing his victims not as human but as far-removed dots that stop moving. It is also a character study featuring a hopeless love triangle; and finally, The Third Man is a classic of Film Noir.

The Third Man won an Oscar® for cinematography at the 1951 Academy Awards (it also received nominations for directing and editing). Robert Krasker shot the night scenes of the film, which present a brilliantly stylized world filled with wet streets, shining cobblestones, shafts of brilliant light illuminating running shadows - angled shots with stark contrasts and deep-focus baroque detail. The flashy photography was not merely for show. It truly reflected the mindset of a city divided. The story, too, is served by the theatrics, and the corruption and decay of the city is also reflective of the corrupted morals to be found within. In a movie filled with wonderful performances, Orson Welles is truly unforgettable as Harry Lime. One of the great, complex villains of the cinema, Lime sets himself up in the Russian sector after being "killed" in an accident, and maneuvers about the city using the underground sewer system.

Aside from the intrigue that occurs in the city on this horizontal plane, it is interesting to note the parallel that the moral ambiguities of the movie have to the vertical plane, i.e., it is atop one of the highest points in the city that Lime rationalizes his crimes, while it is in the underground sewers that he conducts most of his business and is finally served justice.

Graham Greene and Carol Reed also present a fascinating character study and a most unorthodox love triangle. Our nominal hero is ineffectual and nave. He arrives in Vienna as a know-nothing but never seems to learn his lesson. He falls in love with a woman that he hasn't got a chance with, because she loves a dead man.

Carol Reed directs with assurance in this, his greatest film. There were ups and downs in his career (he finally won an Oscar® in 1968 for his energetic but uncharacteristic work on the musical Oliver!), but he brought together every disparate element with aplomb in The Third Man. He had a sense of what would work in the film, even when at first it appeared to be a square peg in a round hole. The most rewarding example of this is the music score. Reed avoided using the expected Viennese waltzes, and instead scored the film entirely with the plinking jangle of zither music. At the time, it was considered an odd choice, but the result is quite unique and now it seems just right.

The Third Man rewards repeated viewings because it goes far beyond being a witty and exciting mystery-thriller. It flips all expectations on their heads by featuring an attractive embodiment of villainy and ineffective heroism; an enjoyable sense of cynicism and a bleak view of romance; a calming sense of chaos and a nostalgic vision of decadence. And when you meet Harry Lime, prepare yourself for a smiling justification for everyday corporate evil in the post-war modern world.

by John Miller

back to top
teaser The Third Man (1949)

SYNOPSIS

An American writer of pulp westerns, Holly Martins, arrives by train in the war-torn, divided city of Vienna. He has been promised a job there by his boyhood friend, Harry Lime. Martins arrives just in time to attend his friend's funeral; he is informed that Lime has just been killed in a traffic accident. Martins seems determined to investigate Lime's death, in spite of being told repeatedly that he should leave the country and go home - both by Major Calloway, the British officer who was pursuing Lime for black marketeering, and by Lime's former lover Anna, with whom Martins is falling in love. Eventually, Martins learns much more about Lime than he ever wanted to know while grappling with questions of morality far more complex than those introduced in his western novels.

Producer/Director: Carol Reed
Executive Producers: Alexander Korda, David O. Selznick
Associate Producer: Hugh Perceval
Screenplay:Graham Greene
Cinematography: Robert Krasker
Film Editor: Oswald Hafenrichter
Assistant Director: Guy Hamilton
Music: Anton Karas
Makeup: George Frost
Sound Editor: Jack Drake
Set Designers: Joseph Bato, John Hawkesworth, Vincent Korda
Cast: Joseph Cotten (Holly Martins), Alida Valli (Anna Schmidt), Orson Welles (Harry Lime), Trevor Howard (Major Calloway), Bernard Lee (Sgt. Paine), Paul Hoerbiger (Porter), Ernst Deutsch ('Baron' Kurtz), Siegfried Breuer (Popescu), Erich Ponto (Dr. Winkel), Wilfrid Hyde-White (Crabbin), Hedwig Bleibtreu (landlady)
B&W-104m.

Why THE THIRD MAN is Essential

Film Noir is typically thought of as a purely American style or genre, but in 1949 two Englishmen - novelist Graham Greene and director Carol Reed - collaborated to flesh out an idea by producer Alexander Korda for a film set in the divided war-torn city of Vienna. The resulting movie, The Third Man, was an overnight worldwide hit and is often listed as the greatest British film of all time. An American influence came from producer David O. Selznick and the stars Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles, but there is no mistaking the European flavor of the movie. Shot largely on location, it captures the darkness and decay of the formerly grand city that is now littered with rubble, just as it captures the corruption and decadence in the soul of people warped by World War.

The Third Man works on many more levels than merely the "entertainment" that Greene termed it to be. It wonderfully captures a time and a place unique in history; it is an early example of a cold-war intrigue that, while not depicting a single spy, can be seen as a prototype for spy thrillers to come. It also works as a study of post-WWII morality with Harry Lime viewing his victims not as human but as far-removed dots that stop moving. It is also a character study featuring a hopeless love triangle; and finally, The Third Man is a classic of Film Noir.

The Third Man won an Oscar® for cinematography at the 1951 Academy Awards (it also received nominations for directing and editing). Robert Krasker shot the night scenes of the film, which present a brilliantly stylized world filled with wet streets, shining cobblestones, shafts of brilliant light illuminating running shadows - angled shots with stark contrasts and deep-focus baroque detail. The flashy photography was not merely for show. It truly reflected the mindset of a city divided. The story, too, is served by the theatrics, and the corruption and decay of the city is also reflective of the corrupted morals to be found within. In a movie filled with wonderful performances, Orson Welles is truly unforgettable as Harry Lime. One of the great, complex villains of the cinema, Lime sets himself up in the Russian sector after being "killed" in an accident, and maneuvers about the city using the underground sewer system.

Aside from the intrigue that occurs in the city on this horizontal plane, it is interesting to note the parallel that the moral ambiguities of the movie have to the vertical plane, i.e., it is atop one of the highest points in the city that Lime rationalizes his crimes, while it is in the underground sewers that he conducts most of his business and is finally served justice.

Graham Greene and Carol Reed also present a fascinating character study and a most unorthodox love triangle. Our nominal hero is ineffectual and nave. He arrives in Vienna as a know-nothing but never seems to learn his lesson. He falls in love with a woman that he hasn't got a chance with, because she loves a dead man.

Carol Reed directs with assurance in this, his greatest film. There were ups and downs in his career (he finally won an Oscar® in 1968 for his energetic but uncharacteristic work on the musical Oliver!), but he brought together every disparate element with aplomb in The Third Man. He had a sense of what would work in the film, even when at first it appeared to be a square peg in a round hole. The most rewarding example of this is the music score. Reed avoided using the expected Viennese waltzes, and instead scored the film entirely with the plinking jangle of zither music. At the time, it was considered an odd choice, but the result is quite unique and now it seems just right.

The Third Man rewards repeated viewings because it goes far beyond being a witty and exciting mystery-thriller. It flips all expectations on their heads by featuring an attractive embodiment of villainy and ineffective heroism; an enjoyable sense of cynicism and a bleak view of romance; a calming sense of chaos and a nostalgic vision of decadence. And when you meet Harry Lime, prepare yourself for a smiling justification for everyday corporate evil in the post-war modern world.

by John M. Miller

back to top
teaser The Third Man (1949)

Pop Culture 101 - THE THIRD MAN

Composer and Zither-master Anton Karas had quite a career following the release of The Third Man (1949). His "3rd Man Theme" (as it was more commonly written out) was a worldwide hit. Consequently, the tune was covered by many artists and performers throughout the 1950s and beyond. The tune was adapted to almost every musical style and taste, from Big Band, calypso, space-age, cha-cha, Hawaiian, rock, and more. For the Hi-Fi-listening public of the day, the tune was performed by the likes of Guy Lombardo, Esquivel, Ray Coniff, Jackie Gleason, Herb Alpert, Nelson Riddle, Ben Pollack, and many more. In the Rock era, The Band and The Shadows covered the tune, and during the "Get Back" sessions in 1969, even the Beatles took a stab at it. More recently, The Del Rubio Triplets performed it on their 1991 album of cover songs, Whip It. Sheet music sales for the song in the 50s were very brisk. There was also a set of lyrics written for the tune, by Walter Lord:

When a zither starts to play
You'll remember yesterday
In its haunting strain, Vienna lives again, free and bright and gay.
In your mind a sudden gleam
Of a half forgotten dream,
Seems to glimmer when you hear the third man theme

Once again there comes to mind
Someone that you left behind
Love that somehow didn't last
In that happy city of the past.

Does she still recall the dream
That rapture so supreme
When she first heard the haunting third man theme?

Incredibly, the popularity of the music even spawned merchandise for the film. The Harbert Company of New York City, maker of toy musical instruments, marketed a "3rd Man Junior Zither" in 1950. It came with sheets with the notes of the "3rd Man Theme" and several other popular songs printed out "in sensational easy-to-play chart form." Laying the sheet under the strings, a child or amateur could pick out a tune with the accompanying felt pick. The zither, music sheets, and box all featured the movie logo and artwork of Harry Lime.

The popularity of The Third Man, and especially the charm and allure of Harry Lime as a character, spawned spin-off series for both radio and television. Orson Welles had been a fixture on radio since the late 1930s of course, through such series as "Mercury Theatre on the Air," "Campbell Playhouse," and "Orson Welles Almanac." Beginning in 1951 he could be heard as the title character in the British series "The Adventures of Harry Lime." A total of 52 half-hour episodes were recorded, several of which were also written by Welles. The premise was set up every week: After the audience hears Lime met his death in the sewers of Vienna in the opening, we hear Welles say, "Harry Lime had many lives. And I can recount all of them. How do I know? It's very simple. Because my name is Harry Lime." The stories are flashbacks, then, of a less villainous but nevertheless roguish adventurer and opportunist hopping the globe in search of romance and easy riches. In one notable episode written by Welles, "Man of Mystery," Lime meets up with eccentric financer Gregory Arkadin. In this show Welles was developing ideas he would later incorporate into his film Mr. Arkadin, released in 1955.

In 1959, the BBC and Twentieth-Century Fox co-produced a syndicated TV series called The Third Man, but it bore little resemblance to the film. Michael Rennie starred as a much more respectable Harry Lime, now an art dealer jet setting the world and solving crimes with a sidekick played by Jonathan Harris. Seventy-seven half-hour episodes were produced. Although this series did not follow the lead of the film, it did set a tone for subsequent TV jet-setters, such as those in The Saint and I Spy.

Since Graham Greene is so associated with the Cold War Spy mythos, both in fact and in his fiction, and since the spy genre was to become so important to the 1960s British film industry, it should be no surprise that there are connections between The Third Man and the later James Bond series of films. Reed's assistant director, Guy Hamilton, went on to a notable directing career of his own, most conspicuously at the helm of four James Bond films, including Goldfinger(1964) which many regard as the quintessential Bond movie. The others he directed were Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), and The Man With the Golden Gun (1974). Hamilton also directed the non-Bond spy thriller Funeral in Berlin (1966).

Bernard Lee (Sgt. Paine in the film) made his career by playing a long line of police detectives, military men, inspectors, customs officers, and spies. He is fondly remembered today for his long-standing role as M, James Bond's boss. He originated the role in the first Bond film, Dr. No (1962), and went on to play the role in no less than eleven of the films in the series. He also played variations of the role in many send-ups and parodies throughout the 60s and into the 70s. Orson Welles himself played in the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale.

by John Miller

back to top
teaser The Third Man (1949)

Composer and Zither-master Anton Karas had quite a career following the release of The Third Man (1949). His "3rd Man Theme" (as it was more commonly written out) was a worldwide hit. Consequently, the tune was covered by many artists and performers throughout the 1950s and beyond. The tune was adapted to almost every musical style and taste, from Big Band, calypso, space-age, cha-cha, Hawaiian, rock, and more. For the Hi-Fi-listening public of the day, the tune was performed by the likes of Guy Lombardo, Esquivel, Ray Coniff, Jackie Gleason, Herb Alpert, Nelson Riddle, Ben Pollack, and many more. In the Rock era, The Band and The Shadows covered the tune, and during the "Get Back" sessions in 1969, even the Beatles took a stab at it. More recently, The Del Rubio Triplets performed it on their 1991 album of cover songs, Whip It. Sheet music sales for the song in the 50s were very brisk. There was also a set of lyrics written for the tune, by Walter Lord:

When a zither starts to play
You'll remember yesterday
In its haunting strain, Vienna lives again, free and bright and gay.
In your mind a sudden gleam
Of a half forgotten dream,
Seems to glimmer when you hear the third man theme

Once again there comes to mind
Someone that you left behind
Love that somehow didn't last
In that happy city of the past.

Does she still recall the dream
That rapture so supreme
When she first heard the haunting third man theme?

Incredibly, the popularity of the music even spawned merchandise for the film. The Harbert Company of New York City, maker of toy musical instruments, marketed a "3rd Man Junior Zither" in 1950. It came with sheets with the notes of the "3rd Man Theme" and several other popular songs printed out "in sensational easy-to-play chart form." Laying the sheet under the strings, a child or amateur could pick out a tune with the accompanying felt pick. The zither, music sheets, and box all featured the movie logo and artwork of Harry Lime.

The popularity of The Third Man, and especially the charm and allure of Harry Lime as a character, spawned spin-off series for both radio and television. Orson Welles had been a fixture on radio since the late 1930s of course, through such series as "Mercury Theatre on the Air," "Campbell Playhouse," and "Orson Welles Almanac." Beginning in 1951 he could be heard as the title character in the British series "The Adventures of Harry Lime." A total of 52 half-hour episodes were recorded, several of which were also written by Welles. The premise was set up every week: After the audience hears Lime met his death in the sewers of Vienna in the opening, we hear Welles say, "Harry Lime had many lives. And I can recount all of them. How do I know? It's very simple. Because my name is Harry Lime." The stories are flashbacks, then, of a less villainous but nevertheless roguish adventurer and opportunist hopping the globe in search of romance and easy riches. In one notable episode written by Welles, "Man of Mystery," Lime meets up with eccentric financer Gregory Arkadin. In this show Welles was developing ideas he would later incorporate into his film Mr. Arkadin, released in 1955.

In 1959, the BBC and Twentieth-Century Fox co-produced a syndicated TV series called The Third Man, but it bore little resemblance to the film. Michael Rennie starred as a much more respectable Harry Lime, now an art dealer jet setting the world and solving crimes with a sidekick played by Jonathan Harris. Seventy-seven half-hour episodes were produced. Although this series did not follow the lead of the film, it did set a tone for subsequent TV jet-setters, such as those in The Saint and I Spy.

Since Graham Greene is so associated with the Cold War Spy mythos, both in fact and in his fiction, and since the spy genre was to become so important to the 1960s British film industry, it should be no surprise that there are connections between The Third Man and the later James Bond series of films. Reed's assistant director, Guy Hamilton, went on to a notable directing career of his own, most conspicuously at the helm of four James Bond films, including Goldfinger(1964) which many regard as the quintessential Bond movie. The others he directed were Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), and The Man With the Golden Gun (1974). Hamilton also directed the non-Bond spy thriller Funeral in Berlin (1966).

Bernard Lee (Sgt. Paine in the film) made his career by playing a long line of police detectives, military men, inspectors, customs officers, and spies. He is fondly remembered today for his long-standing role as M, James Bond's boss. He originated the role in the first Bond film, Dr. No (1962), and went on to play the role in no less than eleven of the films in the series. He also played variations of the role in many send-ups and parodies throughout the 60s and into the 70s. Orson Welles himself played in the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale.

by John M. Miller

back to top
teaser The Third Man (1949)

Trivia and Other Fun Stuff on THE THIRD MAN

David O. Selznick repeated many times in his memos during the production of The Third Man that Korda, Reed, and Greene were conspiring against him and ignoring his suggestions. When a print of the film was delivered to New York (after drawn out renegotiations of the terms between Korda and Selznick upon the enormous success of the film in England), Selznick had it rushed to a theater in New Rochelle for a preview with an American audience. Based on the preview cards and on his own long-standing concerns, Selznick cut the picture before distributing it in North America through his Selznick Releasing Organization. The American cut of the film was 93 minutes, or roughly 11 minutes shorter than Reed's cut. There were no retakes or additions, although the opening narration by Reed was rewritten and read by Cotten in character as Holly Martins. There were no scenes cut in their entirety - they were trims in the length of existing scenes. For anyone who has seen both versions, though, it is hard to justify Selznick's cuts, which weaken the pacing, continuity and most of all, the atmosphere of Reed's original.

The movie poster art for the American release of THE THIRD MAN emphasized Valli in close-ups, then Cotten in smaller images, and finally, mystery was hinted at by showing Welles cloaked in shadow or along the edges. The taglines on the advertising veered into the ridiculous, however, as evidenced by these gems: "Cats loved him - and so did Women!" and "He'll put you in a dither with his Zither!"

Joseph Cotten and Valli were cast in THE THIRD MAN due primarily to being under contract to David O. Selznick. What is not commonly reported is that Orson Welles had his own contract with the film's other executive producer, Alexander Korda. That contract was non-exclusive, however, and he and Korda had never been able to agree on a suitable project. It called for Welles to both direct and act, and to receive a portion of the profits of whatever film resulted. When Welles was contacted about working in THE THIRD MAN, it was to be under the terms of this contract, even though Welles was not directing. Welles needed fast cash, though, to continue work on his own production of Othello. The terms were changed then, so that Welles would receive a flat fee and no profit participation. Of course Welles was to regret this later, as THE THIRD MAN made millions worldwide.

Director Reed was knighted, becoming Sir Carol Reed, in 1952 - shortly after the worldwide success of THE THIRD MAN

Joseph Cotten once again played Holly Martins in the 1950 Lux Radio Theater version of "The Third Man" with Evelyn Keyes playing the role of Anna.

In the American Billboard charts for 1950, "The 3rd Man Theme" placed twice in the Top Ten. The Anton Karas recording was Number 3 on the cart, while the Guy Lombardo cover version followed it at Number 4. Combined sales of the tune would easily make it the Number One song of 1950.

In 1950, later in the same year that THE THIRD MAN saw release in America, Joseph Cotten and Valli were teamed again in a movie called Walk Softly, Stranger. This Noir-like romance was directed by Robert Stevenson, and the advertising for it traded heavily on the success of THE THIRD MAN.

For its 50th Anniversary in 1999, new restored prints of the British version of THE THIRD MAN were struck for a major re-issue campaign around the world. The film did very well at the Art House box-office, earning over $596,000 in the United States alone.

by John Miller

Famous Quotes from THE THIRD MAN

Calloway: Go home Martins, like a sensible chap. You don't know what you're mixing in, get the next plane.
Martins: As soon as I get to the bottom of this, I'll get the next plane.
Calloway: Death's at the bottom of everything, Martins. Leave death to the professionals.
Martins: Mind if I use that line in my next Western?

Popescu: That's a nice girl, that. But she ought to go careful in Vienna. Everybody ought to go careful in a city like this.

Martins: I guess nobody really knew Harry like he did...like I did.
Calloway: How long ago?
Martins: Back in school. I was never so lonesome in my life until he showed up.
Calloway: When did you see him last?
Martins: September, '39.
Calloway: When the business started?
Martins: Um hmm.
Calloway: See much of him before that?
Martins: Once in a while. Best friend I ever had.
Calloway: That sounds like a cheap novelette.
Martins: Well, I write cheap novelettes.

Calloway: I told you to go away, Martins. This isn't Santa Fe, I'm not a sheriff, and you aren't a cowboy. You've been blundering around with the worst bunch of racketeers in Vienna - your precious Harry's friends - and now you're wanted for murder.
Martins: Put down drunk and disorderly, too.
Calloway: I have. What's the matter with your hand?
Martins: A parrot bit me.
Calloway: Oh, stop behaving like a fool, Martins

Martins: Have you ever seen any of your victims?
Harry Lime: Victims? Don't be melodramatic. (Indicating people below the Great Wheel): Look down there. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax.

Harry Lime: Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. It's what the fellow said - in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

Calloway (to Martins): I don't want another murder in this case, and you were born to be murdered.

Martins: That's the first time I ever saw you laugh. Do it again.
Anna: There isn't enough for two laughs.

Calloway: Paine lent me one of your books - `Oklahoma Kid I think it was. I read a bit of it looked as if it was going to be pretty good. What made you take up this sort of thing? Been doing it for long?
Martins: Alright, Calloway - you win.
Calloway: I never knew there were snake charmers in Texas.
Martins: I said you win.
Calloway: Win what?
Martins: I'll be your dumb decoy duck.

Calloway: We should have dug deeper than a grave.

Compiled by John Miller

back to top
teaser The Third Man (1949)

David O. Selznick repeated many times in his memos during the production of The Third Man that Korda, Reed, and Greene were conspiring against him and ignoring his suggestions. When a print of the film was delivered to New York (after drawn out renegotiations of the terms between Korda and Selznick upon the enormous success of the film in England), Selznick had it rushed to a theater in New Rochelle for a preview with an American audience. Based on the preview cards and on his own long-standing concerns, Selznick cut the picture before distributing it in North America through his Selznick Releasing Organization. The American cut of the film was 93 minutes, or roughly 11 minutes shorter than Reed's cut. There were no retakes or additions, although the opening narration by Reed was rewritten and read by Cotten in character as Holly Martins. There were no scenes cut in their entirety - they were trims in the length of existing scenes. For anyone who has seen both versions, though, it is hard to justify Selznick's cuts, which weaken the pacing, continuity and most of all, the atmosphere of Reed's original.

The movie poster art for the American release of THE THIRD MAN emphasized Valli in close-ups, then Cotten in smaller images, and finally, mystery was hinted at by showing Welles cloaked in shadow or along the edges. The taglines on the advertising veered into the ridiculous, however, as evidenced by these gems: "Cats loved him...and so did Women!" and "He'll put you in a dither with his Zither!"

Joseph Cotten and Valli were cast in THE THIRD MAN due primarily to being under contract to David O. Selznick. What is not commonly reported is that Orson Welles had his own contract with the film's other executive producer, Alexander Korda. That contract was non-exclusive, however, and he and Korda had never been able to agree on a suitable project. It called for Welles to both direct and act, and to receive a portion of the profits of whatever film resulted. When Welles was contacted about working in THE THIRD MAN, it was to be under the terms of this contract, even though Welles was not directing. Welles needed fast cash, though, to continue work on his own production of Othello. The terms were changed then, so that Welles would receive a flat fee and no profit participation. Of course Welles was to regret this later, as THE THIRD MAN made millions worldwide.

Director Reed was knighted, becoming Sir Carol Reed, in 1952 - shortly after the worldwide success of THE THIRD MAN

Joseph Cotten once again played Holly Martins in the 1950 Lux Radio Theater version of "The Third Man" with Evelyn Keyes playing the role of Anna.

In the American Billboard charts for 1950, "The 3rd Man Theme" placed twice in the Top Ten. The Anton Karas recording was Number 3 on the cart, while the Guy Lombardo cover version followed it at Number 4. Combined sales of the tune would easily make it the Number One song of 1950.

In 1950, later in the same year that THE THIRD MAN saw release in America, Joseph Cotten and Valli were teamed again in a movie called Walk Softly, Stranger. This Noir-like romance was directed by Robert Stevenson, and the advertising for it traded heavily on the success of THE THIRD MAN.

For its 50th Anniversary in 1999, new restored prints of the British version of THE THIRD MAN were struck for a major re-issue campaign around the world. The film did very well at the Art House box-office, earning over $596,000 in the United States alone.

by John Miller

Famous Quotes from THE THIRD MAN

Calloway: Go home Martins, like a sensible chap. You don't know what you're mixing in, get the next plane.
Martins: As soon as I get to the bottom of this, I'll get the next plane.
Calloway: Death's at the bottom of everything, Martins. Leave death to the professionals.
Martins: Mind if I use that line in my next Western?

Popescu: That's a nice girl, that. But she ought to go careful in Vienna. Everybody ought to go careful in a city like this.

Martins: I guess nobody really knew Harry like he did...like I did.
Calloway: How long ago?
Martins: Back in school. I was never so lonesome in my life until he showed up.
Calloway: When did you see him last?
Martins: September, '39.
Calloway: When the business started?
Martins: Um hmm.
Calloway: See much of him before that?
Martins: Once in a while. Best friend I ever had.
Calloway: That sounds like a cheap novelette.
Martins: Well, I write cheap novelettes.

Calloway: I told you to go away, Martins. This isn't Santa Fe, I'm not a sheriff, and you aren't a cowboy. You've been blundering around with the worst bunch of racketeers in Vienna - your precious Harry's friends - and now you're wanted for murder.
Martins: Put down drunk and disorderly, too.
Calloway: I have. What's the matter with your hand?
Martins: A parrot bit me.
Calloway: Oh, stop behaving like a fool, Martins...

Martins: Have you ever seen any of your victims?
Harry Lime: Victims? Don't be melodramatic. (Indicating people below the Great Wheel): Look down there. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax.

Harry Lime: Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. It's what the fellow said - in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

Calloway (to Martins): I don't want another murder in this case, and you were born to be murdered.

Martins: That's the first time I ever saw you laugh. Do it again.
Anna: There isn't enough for two laughs.

Calloway: Paine lent me one of your books - 'Oklahoma Kid' I think it was. I read a bit of it - looked as if it was going to be pretty good. What made you take up this sort of thing? Been doing it for long?
Martins: Alright, Calloway - you win.
Calloway: I never knew there were snake charmers in Texas.
Martins: I said you win.
Calloway: Win what?
Martins: I'll be your dumb decoy duck.

Calloway: We should have dug deeper than a grave.

Compiled by John M. Miller

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teaser The Third Man (1949)

THE BIG IDEA - The Origins of THE THIRD MAN (1949)

It may be a cliche to say that film is a collaborative art, but in the case of The Third Man (1949), the term is particularly apt. The movie was launched by not one, but two, strong-willed moguls; it was written by a celebrated novelist/screenwriter/raconteur; its director was riding a streak of successes; and the actor playing the title role was a notorious multi-hyphenate in his own right. The egos involved were massive, in other words, and there was no doubt a bit of luck involved in the fact that the resulting movie not only thrived on this energy - it became something much greater than any one of the major players involved imagined.

Sir Alexander Korda presided over his London Films Productions and was known as the leading film producer in Europe. As such, he had offices both in England and in various countries around the Continent. World War II had brought distribution to a halt throughout most of Korda's European territories, so after the war he took stock of the situation. Due to post-war currency controls, he found that he had to keep some profits from foreign distribution from leaving those countries. To solve this problem, he began to shift some of his production into these countries as well. On a visit to Vienna, Austria he observed the unique five-part Allied occupation of the city and determined that the setting would be ideal for a picture, preferably a thriller.

Meanwhile, British director Carol Reed was on a roll. In 1947 his crime thriller Odd Man Out had garnered him worldwide attention, and he was presently finishing the film The Fallen Idol (1948) for Korda's London Films. This movie was based on the story "The Lost Illusion" by the celebrated British author Graham Greene, who had also written the screenplay. Upon its release, this film would also reap worldwide praise. Korda had an agreement for American distribution with mega-mogul David O. Selznick and his Selznick Releasing Organization. The Fallen Idol also did very well at the U.S. box office. Reed and Greene were ready to collaborate again, and were anxious to lighten the mood with a comedy-thriller.

Greene would later say that Korda made the request that Greene devise a story to take place in post-war Vienna, so Greene pulled out the intriguing opening line of a story he had filed away several years before: "I had paid my last farewell to Harry a week ago, when his coffin was lowered into the frozen February ground, so it was with incredulity that I saw him pass by, without a sign of recognition, among the host of strangers in the Strand." Other accounts indicate that Greene actually had the story more or less worked out, and that he and Reed approached Korda, who then suggested the Vienna setting. At any rate, Greene checked into a hotel in Vienna in February 1948 on Korda's tab and spent two weeks there in writing and research. Here he no doubt discovered the intricacies of the divided sectors of the city, the black markets that flourished, the ways in which the inhabitants maneuvered through the bombed-out rubble and bargained for goods and services, and perhaps most famously, the way the sewer system beneath the city was patrolled by a special police detail. Greene went on to Italy and finished writing his novella, The Third Man.

Greene's novella was published in 1950, after the release of the film, but it could more properly be called a film treatment. Greene himself admitted that the movie was superior, writing in his introduction that the novella "..was never intended to be more than the raw material for a picture. The film is - the finished state of the story." The screenplay was written in tighter collaboration with director Reed.

Korda and Selznick entered into further negotiations in May of 1948 to launch co-production deals to circumvent the British governments' Anglo-American Film Agreement, which restricted the revenues which could be converted from the box-office to American film studios. Korda also welcomed the chance to bring an American flavor to his films to increase their earning potential in that country. The first film in this agreement was to be The Third Man, which now would also feature a partial American cast. Along with the deal, for better or worse, would be the creative input of David O. Selznick, who was notorious for being a hands-on micromanager of projects. The vast number of memos and directions that sprang from his dictation on productions such as Gone with the Wind (1939), Rebecca (1940), Spellbound (1945), and Duel in the Sun (1946) were already well known and legendary in movie-making circles. Selznick saw the script and the criticisms and suggestions began immediately.

Greene and Reed traveled to America for conferences with Selznick for two weeks in August 1948. It was Selznick's idea to open the film with a brief documentary treatment explaining present-day Vienna. Reed approved of this, but virtually every other suggestion by Selznick was ignored. Selznick was primarily concerned about the depiction of the two Americans, one evil, the other a fool. At Selznick's urging, Reed did bring in a writer, Jerome Chodorov, to work uncredited to make the Martins's dialogue more "American." In typical fashion, Selznick went on to obsess in memo form about costumes (Valli's weren't glamorous enough), the title (he preferred something more prosaic like "A Night in Vienna" or "The Claiming of the Body"), and casting (he desperately wanted Noel Coward for the role of Lime).

Selznick's most important contribution was the loan of two of his contract players, Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli, for the leads. Ironically, Reed himself would have preferred James Stewart in the Martins role. With Welles and Cotten now cast, however, it seemed appropriate that the two old friends Lime and Martins were to be played by two actors who were old friends in real life. Principal photography was set to begin in Vienna in October 1948.

by John Miller

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teaser The Third Man (1949)

It may be a cliche to say that film is a collaborative art, but in the case of The Third Man (1949), the term is particularly apt. The movie was launched by not one, but two, strong-willed moguls; it was written by a celebrated novelist/screenwriter/raconteur; its director was riding a streak of successes; and the actor playing the title role was a notorious multi-hyphenate in his own right. The egos involved were massive, in other words, and there was no doubt a bit of luck involved in the fact that the resulting movie not only thrived on this energy - it became something much greater than any one of the major players involved imagined.

Sir Alexander Korda presided over his London Films Productions and was known as the leading film producer in Europe. As such, he had offices both in England and in various countries around the Continent. World War II had brought distribution to a halt throughout most of Korda's European territories, so after the war he took stock of the situation. Due to post-war currency controls, he found that he had to keep some profits from foreign distribution from leaving those countries. To solve this problem, he began to shift some of his production into these countries as well. On a visit to Vienna, Austria he observed the unique five-part Allied occupation of the city and determined that the setting would be ideal for a picture, preferably a thriller.

Meanwhile, British director Carol Reed was on a roll. In 1947 his crime thriller Odd Man Out had garnered him worldwide attention, and he was presently finishing the film The Fallen Idol (1948) for Korda's London Films. This movie was based on the story "The Lost Illusion" by the celebrated British author Graham Greene, who had also written the screenplay. Upon its release, this film would also reap worldwide praise. Korda had an agreement for American distribution with mega-mogul David O. Selznick and his Selznick Releasing Organization. The Fallen Idol also did very well at the U.S. box office. Reed and Greene were ready to collaborate again, and were anxious to lighten the mood with a comedy-thriller.

Greene would later say that Korda made the request that Greene devise a story to take place in post-war Vienna, so Greene pulled out the intriguing opening line of a story he had filed away several years before: "I had paid my last farewell to Harry a week ago, when his coffin was lowered into the frozen February ground, so it was with incredulity that I saw him pass by, without a sign of recognition, among the host of strangers in the Strand.' Other accounts indicate that Greene actually had the story more or less worked out, and that he and Reed approached Korda, who then suggested the Vienna setting. At any rate, Greene checked into a hotel in Vienna in February 1948 on Korda's tab and spent two weeks there in writing and research. Here he no doubt discovered the intricacies of the divided sectors of the city, the black markets that flourished, the ways in which the inhabitants maneuvered through the bombed-out rubble and bargained for goods and services, and perhaps most famously, the way the sewer system beneath the city was patrolled by a special police detail. Greene went on to Italy and finished writing his novella, The Third Man.

Greene's novella was published in 1950, after the release of the film, but it could more properly be called a film treatment. Greene himself admitted that the movie was superior, writing in his introduction that the novella "...was never intended to be more than the raw material for a picture. The film is...the finished state of the story." The screenplay was written in tighter collaboration with director Reed.

Korda and Selznick entered into further negotiations in May of 1948 to launch co-production deals to circumvent the British governments' Anglo-American Film Agreement, which restricted the revenues which could be converted from the box-office to American film studios. Korda also welcomed the chance to bring an American flavor to his films to increase their earning potential in that country. The first film in this agreement was to be The Third Man, which now would also feature a partial American cast. Along with the deal, for better or worse, would be the creative input of David O. Selznick, who was notorious for being a hands-on micromanager of projects. The vast number of memos and directions that sprang from his dictation on productions such as Gone with the Wind (1939), Rebecca (1940), Spellbound (1945), and Duel in the Sun (1946) were already well known and legendary in movie-making circles. Selznick saw the script and the criticisms and suggestions began immediately.

Greene and Reed traveled to America for conferences with Selznick for two weeks in August 1948. It was Selznick's idea to open the film with a brief documentary treatment explaining present-day Vienna. Reed approved of this, but virtually every other suggestion by Selznick was ignored. Selznick was primarily concerned about the depiction of the two Americans, one evil, the other a fool. At Selznick's urging, Reed did bring in a writer, Jerome Chodorov, to work uncredited to make the Martins's dialogue more "American.' In typical fashion, Selznick went on to obsess in memo form about costumes (Valli's weren't glamorous enough), the title (he preferred something more prosaic like "A Night in Vienna" or "The Claiming of the Body"), and casting (he desperately wanted Noel Coward for the role of Lime).

Selznick's most important contribution was the loan of two of his contract players, Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli, for the leads. Ironically, Reed himself would have preferred James Stewart in the Martins role. With Welles and Cotten now cast, however, it seemed appropriate that the two old friends Lime and Martins were to be played by two actors who were old friends in real life. Principal photography was set to begin in Vienna in October 1948.

by John M. Miller

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teaser The Third Man (1949)

Behind the Camera on THE THIRD MAN

By all accounts Carol Reed was a relatively slow director, completing only a few shots or set-ups per day. Time was all-important during the Vienna shooting of The Third Man (1949), however, because the location filming needed to be completed before the late winter snows set in. To accommodate this, three shooting units were set up: a day unit, a night unit, and a sewer unit. Each had a separate director of photography (Robert Krasker shot the night footage), and Reed directed all, aided by his assistant director Guy Hamilton and (by some accounts) Benzedrine.

Reed went to great lengths to capture the atmosphere of the beleaguered city on film, and he was helped along by city officials and ordinary inhabitants. On nights when rain was unavailable to give the cobblestone streets the appropriate glistening sheen, for example, the city would provide a fire brigade to wet things down. Reed also incorporated many local residents into the film as extras such as the often glimpsed balloon seller.

Orson Welles arrived in Vienna in mid-November. Expecting to shoot around him earlier in the filming, Reed had already enlisted Guy Hamilton to play Lime in shots involving disembodied shadows caught running on building sides. (In another famous shot, Reed himself stepped in for Welles - the fingers seen reaching through the street-level grate at the end of the film are those of the director himself). The first scenes to be shot upon Welles' arrival were to take place in the sewer. However, the actor quickly fled the location as soon as he saw (and smelled) the sewer. In spite of the fact that the crew and several actors had been shooting down there for weeks, Welles refused to participate. Most of his scenes would be shot back in London in a sewer set built at Shepperton Studios. According to Reed's own account of this (quoted in Dictionary of Film): "Orson suddenly turned up one morning, just as we had set up our cameras in the famous sewers. He told me that he felt very ill, had just got over a bout of influenza, and could not possibly play the role...I entreated him, in any case, just to stay and play the scene we had prepared, where he is chased along the sewers...Reluctantly he agreed. 'Those sewers will give me pneumonia!' he grumbled, as he descended the iron steps. We shot the scene again. Then Orson asked us to shoot it again, although I was satisfied with the first 'take.' He talked with the cameraman, made some suggestions, and did the chase again. Then again. The upshot was that Orson did that scene ten times, became enthusiastic about the story - and stayed in Vienna to finish the picture."

Many accounts of Welles' tenure on the film imply that he wrote all of his own dialogue and/or took over directing chores from Reed. In truth, Welles added only the famous "cuckoo clock" speech and a few odd lines concerning indigestion pills.

Wrapping the location shooting by the end of 1948, the production shot for three months at Shepperton Studios in early 1949, only a week of which involved Welles. It is a credit to Reed and to art director Vincent Korda that many viewers assume that all of the shooting was done in Vienna.

One of the key elements of the film's unique flavor is the zither-only score by Anton Karas. Reed heard the zither player at a reception held when the company arrived in Vienna. On off days during location work, Reed made demo recordings of Karas at his hotel, later matching up the demos to footage during rough editing. He later brought Karas to London for proper recording, still intending to employ a mixture of zither and conventional orchestral scoring. As Reed combined the zither playing to more of the final edited shots, he realized they were a perfect match and used the solo instrument exclusively. When the film opened to sensational notices, almost every review singled out the score for special praise.

by John Miller

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teaser The Third Man (1949)

By all accounts Carol Reed was a relatively slow director, completing only a few shots or set-ups per day. Time was all-important during the Vienna shooting of The Third Man (1949), however, because the location filming needed to be completed before the late winter snows set in. To accommodate this, three shooting units were set up: a day unit, a night unit, and a sewer unit. Each had a separate director of photography (Robert Krasker shot the night footage), and Reed directed all, aided by his assistant director Guy Hamilton and (by some accounts) Benzedrine.

Reed went to great lengths to capture the atmosphere of the beleaguered city on film, and he was helped along by city officials and ordinary inhabitants. On nights when rain was unavailable to give the cobblestone streets the appropriate glistening sheen, for example, the city would provide a fire brigade to wet things down. Reed also incorporated many local residents into the film as extras such as the often glimpsed balloon seller.

Orson Welles arrived in Vienna in mid-November. Expecting to shoot around him earlier in the filming, Reed had already enlisted Guy Hamilton to play Lime in shots involving disembodied shadows caught running on building sides. (In another famous shot, Reed himself stepped in for Welles - the fingers seen reaching through the street-level grate at the end of the film are those of the director himself). The first scenes to be shot upon Welles' arrival were to take place in the sewer. However, the actor quickly fled the location as soon as he saw (and smelled) the sewer. In spite of the fact that the crew and several actors had been shooting down there for weeks, Welles refused to participate. Most of his scenes would be shot back in London in a sewer set built at Shepperton Studios. According to Reed's own account of this (quoted in Dictionary of Film): "Orson suddenly turned up one morning, just as we had set up our cameras in the famous sewers. He told me that he felt very ill, had just got over a bout of influenza, and could not possibly play the role...I entreated him, in any case, just to stay and play the scene we had prepared, where he is chased along the sewers...Reluctantly he agreed. 'Those sewers will give me pneumonia!' he grumbled, as he descended the iron steps. We shot the scene again. Then Orson asked us to shoot it again, although I was satisfied with the first 'take.' He talked with the cameraman, made some suggestions, and did the chase again. Then again. The upshot was that Orson did that scene ten times, became enthusiastic about the story - and stayed in Vienna to finish the picture."

Many accounts of Welles' tenure on the film imply that he wrote all of his own dialogue and/or took over directing chores from Reed. In truth, Welles added only the famous "cuckoo clock" speech and a few odd lines concerning indigestion pills.

Wrapping the location shooting by the end of 1948, the production shot for three months at Shepperton Studios in early 1949, only a week of which involved Welles. It is a credit to Reed and to art director Vincent Korda that many viewers assume that all of the shooting was done in Vienna.

One of the key elements of the film's unique flavor is the zither-only score by Anton Karas. Reed heard the zither player at a reception held when the company arrived in Vienna. On off days during location work, Reed made demo recordings of Karas at his hotel, later matching up the demos to footage during rough editing. He later brought Karas to London for proper recording, still intending to employ a mixture of zither and conventional orchestral scoring. As Reed combined the zither playing to more of the final edited shots, he realized they were a perfect match and used the solo instrument exclusively. When the film opened to sensational notices, almost every review singled out the score for special praise.

by John M. Miller

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teaser The Third Man (1949)

The Critics' Corner on THE THIRD MAN

Time Magazine noted that the film had already been hailed by critics in Britain, and that U.S. moviegoers were likely to find it one of the best movies of 1950. They go on to say that the film "adds an extra depth of character insight and a new texture of pictorial eloquence to the kind of spellbinding thriller that made Alfred Hitchcock famous." The reviewer gives much credit to Reed, saying that in his hands "a shot of a body floating in the Danube tells a story of its own, a shot of a cat licking a man's shoe becomes a chilling premonition of shock." Time finds flaws in the film, but says these are "largely the product of its brilliance." In a clear indication of the low esteem to which Welles was held by the press at the time, the review concludes by saying "the ultimate proof of Reed's powers as a director: he has managed to get a temperate, first-rate performance out of Orson Welles." - Time, February 1950.

"The haunting music of a zither, the ring of Vienna's cobbled streets, and a ghostly Graham Greene story about a manhunt in that seamy capitol flow smoothly and beautifully together into one piece of top screen artifice in Carol Reed's The Third Man. But we feel we are bound to inform you that our key word is 'artifice.'...for the simple fact is that The Third Man, for all the awesome hoopla it has received, is essentially a first-rate contrivance in the way of melodrama - and that's all. It isn't a penetrating study of any European problem of the day...It doesn't present any 'message.' It hasn't a point of view. It is just a bang-up melodrama, designed to excite and entertain." - Bosley Crowther, New York Times, February 1950.

"A complete, striking demonstration of the use of art for art's sake, with cinema molds shattered effortlessly. Carol Reed is a picture Titan of genius." - New York Daily Mirror, February 1950.

The Third Man is "the supreme movie about the night-world, the ultimate example of that shining-streets-and-lurking-shadows `realism' that was so popular in the forties. But in addition to the famous atmosphere - the knowing, world-weary people; the magnificent imperial ruins; the alternatingly menacing and ingratiating zither music - The Third Man sustains a mood of pessimistic irony - which seemed to reveal the nasty and permanent truth about adult experience, the truth that you could not feel superior to as you got older; life was not orderly and sane, but chaotic, sordid and dangerous; you didn't get what you wanted or possibly deserved; moral virtue, honesty and even courage might count for very little, and these qualities, as well as being useless, might make you unappealing to women and a general nuisance to everyone else. With its extravagant, almost voluptuous pessimism, The Third Man provides a pleasurable consolation in bad moments, a reassurance that nothing was ever meant to go right in the first place. It's so enjoyable, in part, because it gives the viewer the agreeable sensation of having confronted the worst." - David Denby, Favorite Movies: Critic's Choice, 1973.

"...A tour de force on postwar Vienna...for decades The Third Man has worked as a mystery: you can smell the sewers, the fear, and the mistrust in Vienna. A time and a place were captured; scenario and locale were stirred, like cream going into dark coffee. Joseph Cotten and Holly Martins are from a writer's forgotten drawer. But Trevor Howard, Valli, and the wolfish Viennese faces tell the truth. The Third Man has one of the most intense atmospheres the screen has ever delivered." - David Thomson, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film.

"It is the highpoint of the British entertainment film between 1946 and 1958...Not surprisingly, the moral lessons of The Third Man tend to be obscured by the accumulation of incidents and sinister characters. The clichs of melodrama abound, but the total spell continues to fascinate, a spell worked partly by the crystalline photography of Robert Krasker and the tantalizing, regretful zither music of Anton Karas." - Peter Cowie, Eighty Years of Cinema.

"There is an ambiguity about our relation to the Cotten character: he is alone against the forces of the city and, in a final devastating stroke, he is even robbed of the illusion that the girl (Alida Valli) is interested in him, yet his illusions are so commonplace that his disillusion does not strike us deeply. Greene has made him a shallow, ineffectual, well-meaning American." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies.

"The film owes debts to the Grierson/Rotha tradition of British documentary film, as well as to the post-war neorealism of Rossellini's Roma Citta Aperta [1945] and De Sica's Ladri de Biciclette [1948]; like its Italian predecessors, The Third Man studies the effects of post-war economic and social corruption within the context of a once grand though now rubble-strewn European capital...But overshadowing all of these influences is the presence of Orson Welles in the role of Harry Lime." - Leland Poague, The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers.

"This thriller is...in some ways a portrait of the "cold war," then in its early stages. Carol Reed's perfectly controlled technique, somewhat reminiscent of Lang and Hitchcock, creates an overwhelming melancholy atmosphere that is heightened by the haunting, relentless zither music and the sharply drawn and well-acted characters." - George Sadoul, Dictionary of Films.

"Totally memorable and irresistible romantic thriller. Stylish from the first to last...Hitchcock with feeling, if you like." - Halliwell Film & Video Guide.

Awards and Honors:

The Third Man won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival of 1949.

The Third Man received a justly deserved Academy Award for Best Black-and-White Cinematography, which went to Robert Krasker. Also nominated were Carol Reed for Best Director and Oswald Hafenrichter for Best Film Editing. Perhaps the film would have done better had it been released in the U.S. in 1949. Because of the haggling over terms between Korda and Selznick, the film did not play in Los Angeles until early 1950, causing it to be ineligible to collect an Oscar® until 1951.

In 1950, The Third Man won for Best British Film at the BAFTA Awards.

The Third Man topped the "BFI 100," a list of a hundred of "the best British films ever" compiled by the British Film Institute in 1999/2000.

Compiled by John Miller

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teaser The Third Man (1949)

The Third Man (1949), Carol Reed's classic tale of post-war friendship and comeuppance, is so uniquely stylized, it would seem that Reed was in complete control of the picture from beginning to end. But dealing with producer David O. Selznick was something of a wrestling match for Reed. And Orson Welles, who eventually stole the show and entered yet another realm of movie history as a memorably suave villain, purposefully turned the casting process into a cheeky game of cross-country cat and mouse.

Joseph Cotten plays Holly Martins, a two-bit American novelist who travels to Vienna, where his old friend, Harry Lime (Welles), has offered him a job. Holly arrives to find that Harry has died in a car accident. At the funeral, Holly meets Maj. Calloway (Trevor Howard), a military officer who informs him that Lime was actually a thief and murderer who had done brisk business selling tainted, often deadly penicillin on the black market.

Eventually, Holly will unexpectedly discover that Harry isn't really dead, and that he suffers no guilt at all for having killed innocent people in the name of money. This forces Holly to make a choice between protecting his old friend and helping the police take him down for his vile crimes.

The Third Man's legendary finale, a nail-biting chase through Vienna's massive sewer system, is one of the great sequences in film history, and absolutely shouldn't be missed. But Welles' performance is also a mini-marvel, Graham Greene's sly dialogue crackles, Anton Karas' strangely incongruous (and equally effective) zither music casts a mesmerizing spell, and Reed's final shot is an audacious jaw-dropper. You could argue that this immensely entertaining, if occasionally too self-conscious, picture is the best British film of the 1940s.

Still, the movie's beginnings were simple enough. Reed and Greene, who had recently enjoyed great success with a picture called The Fallen Idol (1948), were contemplating another project when they had dinner with producer Alexander Korda. During dinner, Greene showed Korda a brief paragraph he had written that began, "I had paid my last farewell to Harry a week ago, when his coffin was lowered into the frozen ground, so that it was with incredulity that I saw him pass by, without a sign of recognition, among the host of strangers in the Strand." On that intriguing concept alone, Korda hired Greene to write another screenplay for Reed. Greene then left for Vienna, and scripted The Third Man in about eight weeks.

Korda insisted that the story take place in Vienna, where four political powers America, Russia, England, and France were then overseeing a rather corrupt post-war environment. He felt that this location would drawbig-name American movie stars, which would give the British production a leg-up in finding a U.S. audience. Korda's game plan obviously worked, as the film became a major hit all over the world.

While searching for inspiration in Vienna, Greene had a fortuitous conversation with a friend who described a literal "underground police" department that patrolled the city's sewers, looking for shady types who were trying to pass from one Allied checkpoint to another without the proper papers. This tidbit triggered Greene's imagination, and led to Lime's final bid for freedom beneath the cobblestone streets.

In Greene's initial treatment for the script, Lime was described with a degree of detail that all but cried out "Orson Welles." "The picture I have of him on my files is an excellent one," he wrote. "He is caught by a street photographer with his stocky legs apart, big shoulders a little hunched, a belly that has known too much good food for too long, on his face a look of cheerful rascality, a geniality, a recognition that his happiness will make the world's day."

Unfortunately, Selznick, the film's American co-producer, had been driving Reed and Greene crazy with inappropriate suggestions, and offered what he considered to be a brilliant casting choice for Lime - none other than Noel Coward! How Selznick came to the conclusion that the delicate, angular playwright (who rarely acted) was their man is anyone's guess, but Reed wisely held out until Welles was approved.

Welles, however, knew that he was perfect for the role, and gleefully grabbed the chance to exact some revenge on Korda, who had repeatedly offered financing for Welles' beloved film projects, only to withdraw it at the last minute. For instance, in 1948 Welles was already building sets and carrying around a makeup case full of false noses when Korda pulled the plug on their planned Cyrano de Bergerac collaboration. "My whole time with Alex was things like that," Welles once said. "I kept doing projects for him which I did not abandon, but which he did."

So Welles gave Korda the run-around...literally. At the time, Welles was in Europe shooting a few scenes for his long-time-coming adaptation of Othello (1952). Korda sent his brother, Vincent, to Rome to try to find him and get him to sign a contract. Over the course of the next week, Welles stayed one step ahead of the Korda boys, picking up and moving to a new locale each time he was almost in their grasp. Vincent ended up traveling to Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, and Capri before his quarry finally allowed himself to be captured in Nice. "I knew I was going to do it," Welles later said, "but I was going to make it just as unpleasant as possible."

On the way back to London via a privately chartered plane, Welles played one final, brilliant prank on Alexander Korda. Vincent asked him to hold a basket of fruit that he had gathered for his brother during thepursuit. This was post-war Europe, so fresh fruit was an exceedingly rare item. "It was going to be offered as a great present," Welles said. "He'd gone and picked each piece of fruit. It was too good to be true! I knew Alex wouldn't touch any of it if it had been bitten into." So, when Vincent was asleep, Welles carefully took a bite out of each piece.

Director: Carol Reed
Producers: David O. Selznick, Alexander Korda, and Carol Reed
Screenplay: Graham Greene
Cinematography: Robert Krasker
Editor: Oswald Hafenrichter
Music Composer: Anton Karas
Production Design: Joseph Bato, John Hawkesworth, and Vincent Korda
Set Design: John Hawkesworth
Principal Cast: Joseph Cotten (Holly Martins), Alida Valli (Anna Schmidt),Orson Welles (Harry Lime), Trevor Howard (Maj. Calloway), Paul Hoerbiger(Porter), Bernard Lee (Sgt. Paine), Ernst Deutsch (Baron Kurtz), WilfridHyde-White (Crabbin), Siegfried Breuer (Popescu), Erich Ponto (Dr.Winkel).
BW-105m. Closed captioning.

by Paul Tatara

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teaser The Third Man (1949)

Shadowing The Third Man (2004) explores the making of Graham Greene's all time classic film The Third Man. This is the first documentary ever to be made on this much-loved film which was voted the best British film of the 20th century in a BFI poll. The programme will tell the story of how the film was born from one sentence imagined by Graham Greene; "I saw a man walking down the Strand, whose funeral I had only recently attended."

Shadowing the Third Man literally projects the classic 1948 feature film back to the original locations in the Austrian capital Vienna. Using state-of-the-art projection technology, the stunning images created by Carol Reed and the Oscar®-winning Director of Photography, Robert Krasker are beamed on a huge scale on to the glorious architecture of present-day restored Vienna and the city reclaims its place as one of the central characters in the film.

The viewers will see how the great British director Carol Reed used the ruins of a bombed out city, just 3 years after WWII to set a superb stage for such stars as Orson Welles (The unforgettable Harry Lime), Joseph Cotton, (the naive American novelist, Holly Martins), Trevor Howard (The suave controlled English officer Major Calloway) and Alida Valli (The coldly beautiful refugee Anna).

Two of the last remaining members of the crew have returned to Vienna to tour the locations and bring the filming to life. The Assistant Director Guy Hamilton, who went on to direct three Bond movies is joined by the continuity assistant Angela Allen, to tell what it was like to film in the Vienna sewers, and how a drunk Trevor Howard was arrested for impersonating a British officer, while still in his costume as the sober Major Calloway.

The documentary opens with a typical Graham Greene line; "Isn't it rather dangerous to mix fact and fiction?" For the next 60 minutes the Anglo-Austrian director Frederick Baker will take the audience at BBC4 on a journey, following Greene's story and dividing fact from fiction in the making of this classic. Orson Welles did deliver the famous cuckoo clock speech, but Graham Greene wrote the rest. Orson Welles is seen to die in the Vienna sewers, but the water he splashes through is from the Thames not the Danube. The sewers had to be rebuilt just for Welles, because as an American the real ones were too unhygienic. There was a penicillin racket in Vienna at the time and a world expert on penicillin tells of his first-hand knowledge of the desperate need for this drug in the aftermath of the war. Using a mixture of newsreel footage and archive the film will fill in the facts about the emerging Cold war, and the geo-political east-west tensions against which the film is set.

Finally, Shadowing the Third Man looks at the fascinating creative east-west tensions between the British and American views of the world, as Alexander Korda in London, and David O. Selznick in LA, the film's two immensely powerful Co-executive Producers battled it out behind the scenes to form the film in their respective images.

Executive Producer: Avril MacRory
Director/Writer: Frederick Baker
BW&C-60m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

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teaser The Third Man (1949)

Awards and Honors:

The Third Man won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival of 1949.

The Third Man received a justly deserved Academy Award for Best Black-and-White Cinematography, which went to Robert Krasker. Also nominated were Carol Reed for Best Director and Oswald Hafenrichter for Best Film Editing. Perhaps the film would have done better had it been released in the U.S. in 1949. Because of the haggling over terms between Korda and Selznick, the film did not play in Los Angeles until early 1950, causing it to be ineligible to collect an Oscar® until 1951.

In 1950, The Third Man won for Best British Film at the BAFTA Awards.

The Third Man topped the "BFI 100," a list of a hundred of "the best British films ever" compiled by the British Film Institute in 1999/2000.

The Critics' Corner: THE THIRD MAN

Time magazine noted that the film had already been hailed by critics in Britain, and that U.S. moviegoers were likely to find it one of the best movies of 1950. They go on to say that the film "...adds an extra depth of character insight and a new texture of pictorial eloquence to the kind of spellbinding thriller that made Alfred Hitchcock famous." The reviewer gives much credit to Reed, saying that in his hands "...a shot of a body floating in the Danube tells a story of its own, a shot of a cat licking a man's shoe becomes a chilling premonition of shock." Time finds flaws in the film, but says these are "...largely the product of its brilliance." In a clear indication of the low esteem to which Welles was held by the press at the time, the review concludes by saying "the ultimate proof of Reed's powers as a director: he has managed to get a temperate, first-rate performance out of Orson Welles." - Time, February 1950.

"The haunting music of a zither, the ring of Vienna's cobbled streets, and a ghostly Graham Greene story about a manhunt in that seamy capitol flow smoothly and beautifully together into one piece of top screen artifice in Carol Reed's...The Third Man. But we feel we are bound to inform you that our key word is 'artifice.'...for the simple fact is that The Third Man, for all the awesome hoopla it has received, is essentially a first-rate contrivance in the way of melodrama - and that's all. It isn't a penetrating study of any European problem of the day... It doesn't present any 'message.' It hasn't a point of view. It is just a bang-up melodrama, designed to excite and entertain." - Bosley Crowther, New York Times, February 1950.

"A complete, striking demonstration of the use of art for art's sake, with cinema molds shattered effortlessly. Carol Reed is a picture Titan of genius." - New York Daily Mirror, February 1950.

The Third Man is "...the supreme movie about the night-world, the ultimate example of that shining-streets-and-lurking-shadows 'realism' that was so popular in the forties. But in addition to the famous atmosphere-the knowing, world-weary people; the magnificent imperial ruins; the alternatingly menacing and ingratiating zither music-The Third Man sustains a mood of pessimistic irony...which seemed to reveal the nasty and permanent truth about adult experience, the truth that you could not feel superior to as you got older; life was not orderly and sane, but chaotic, sordid and dangerous; you didn't get what you wanted or possibly deserved; moral virtue, honesty and even courage might count for very little, and these qualities, as well as being useless, might make you unappealing to women and a general nuisance to everyone else. With its extravagant, almost voluptuous pessimism, The Third Man provides a pleasurable consolation in bad moments, a reassurance that nothing was ever meant to go right in the first place. It's so enjoyable, in part, because it gives the viewer the agreeable sensation of having confronted the worst." - David Denby, Favorite Movies: Critic's Choice, 1973.

"...A tour de force on postwar Vienna...for decades The Third Man has worked as a mystery: you can smell the sewers, the fear, and the mistrust in Vienna. A time and a place were captured; scenario and locale were stirred, like cream going into dark coffee. Joseph Cotten and Holly Martins are from a writer's forgotten drawer. But Trevor Howard, Valli, and the wolfish Viennese faces tell the truth. The Third Man has one of the most intense atmospheres the screen has ever delivered." - David Thomson, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film.

"It is the highpoint of the British entertainment film between 1946 and 1958...Not surprisingly, the moral lessons of The Third Man tend to be obscured by the accumulation of incidents and sinister characters. The clichs of melodrama abound, but the total spell continues to fascinate, a spell worked partly by the crystalline photography of Robert Krasker and the tantalizing, regretful zither music of Anton Karas." - Peter Cowie, Eighty Years of Cinema.

"There is an ambiguity about our relation to the Cotten character: he is alone against the forces of the city and, in a final devastating stroke, he is even robbed of the illusion that the girl (Alida Valli) is interested in him, yet his illusions are so commonplace that his disillusion does not strike us deeply. Greene has made him a shallow, ineffectual, well-meaning American." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies.

"The film owes debts to the Grierson/Rotha tradition of British documentary film, as well as to the post-war neorealism of Rossellini's Roma Citta Aperta [1945] and De Sica's Ladri de Biciclette [1948]; like its Italian predecessors, The Third Man studies the effects of post-war economic and social corruption within the context of a once grand though now rubble-strewn European capital...But overshadowing all of these influences is the presence of Orson Welles in the role of Harry Lime." - Leland Poague, The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers.

"This thriller is...in some ways a portrait of the "cold war," then in its early stages. Carol Reed's perfectly controlled technique, somewhat reminiscent of Lang and Hitchcock, creates an overwhelming melancholy atmosphere that is heightened by the haunting, relentless zither music and the sharply drawn and well-acted characters." - George Sadoul, Dictionary of Films.

Compiled by John M. Miller

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